Last weeks column generated quite a lot of feedback, for
which I am grateful. One point I certainly agree with is that
being the most academically-qualified does not necessarily
mean that you are the brightest.
As one email put it: Scholastic grades as the single index
of smartness or readiness for medical school is highly erroneous.
A grade profile of AAA is simply a statistical representation
of a students ability to reproduce information and materials.
This obsession with how well students can regurgitate
is prevalent in Trinidad and Tobagos educational system.
Standardised exams such as CXC and A-Levels only indicate
a students ability to store facts and reproduce them.
They tell nothing of ones mental and emotional preparedness
for the wide range of demands in the medical profession.
Indo-Trinidadian students do need to engage in more extra-curricular
activities, and culturally, there must be a shift to the centre,
as a healthy mind in a healthy body has not traditionally
been the goal, with the result that many Indo-professionals
suffer from poor health far too early on in their life.
There are many brilliant scholarship winners who
have no inter-personal skills or leadership ability, are introverted
or too timid, and this seriously devalues their overall worth
and contribution as a citizen.
I therefore agree with the inclusion of extra-curricular activities
as a criterion for admission into academic life.
It must not, however, be the overriding factor or overwhelm
the primary criteria, as I wouldnt want an incompetent
doctor who could play pan and football sewing me up anymore
than I would one that could play the dholak and cricket!
Policies that have resulted in glaring racial imbalances must
be examined. Are the criteria too narrow or biased? Or, is it
a case of underachievement on the part of one section of society
that needs examination and explanation?
Moving the goalposts will not necessarily change the identity
of the goalscorers, and may even dilute overall standards.
There must be a willingness to address such issues in a multi-racial
society, based on racial politics, or else suspicion and resentment
are bound to occur.
I have repeatedly called for the compilation of racial and other
statistics, because I believe this could help influence, shape
and inform government policy.
Indians could be completely wrong to point to the imbalance
in the protective services, or the Central Bank, as evidence
of racial discrimination, because they probably do not apply
in large numbers.
Africans may be equally wrong to complain about the disproportionate
number of Indian medical students or entrepreneurs, because
they chose different careers in the social sciences, arts and
And in both cases, they might not be applying because they do
not believe they would succeed, or if they get in, that they
would be welcomed and could prosper.
Why go where youre not wanted?
State agencies have stoutly refused to compile racial and other
statistics, out of fear for what it might reveal and our perceived
inability as a society to handle the socio-political reality.
We are not politically mature enough to handle the truth. And
worse yet, we hide behind the misplaced concept of meritocracy.
Should Indo-Trinis feel discriminated against because most of
the government housing projects exclude them?
The Government response that it is simply giving homes to the
homeless or those who need it the most begs the question: where
is the statistical data to substantiate the position that there
are disproportionately more Afro-Trini families in need of housing
than other groups in society?
What if the research revealed that Indo-Trinis happily but illegally
settled in rural areas and built houses on State (Caroni) lands,
or Afro-Trinis culturally prefer to live in high-rise apartment
complexes in urban areas?
Does the Government think the perception of discrimination would
simply disappear if it keeps repeating the political rhetoric
of simply giving homes to the needy?
Costaatts Afros-first policy had opened up
a can of worms. Everyone accepted that the Afro-Trini male between
17-24 needed special attention because, as Rowley put it, they
are underachieving in the classrooms and overachieving
in the jails.
No statistical data was presented.
In modern societies, data is actively solicited and configured
by the State and large corporations in the private sector, with
the aim of promoting equality.
This informs policies on issues such as racial balance, gender
equality, geographical spread, disability quotas, mature student
entry for older people, equal opportunity for gays
and lesbians, flexi-time hours for parents, etc.
In T&T, we seem to prefer debating in the dark without the
assistance of the candlelight of statistics.